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Ecumenical Relations Committee Puts Belhar Confession on Synod 2015 Agenda


In the 2015 Agenda for Synod supplement, the Christian Reformed Church’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee (EIRC) is putting the Belhar Confession back on the agenda. It is also recommending a new ecumenical affiliation with more conservative Reformed and Presbyterian denominations. Synod is the annual leadership meeting of the CRC.

Synod 2012 declined to adopt the Belhar Confession as an official doctrinal statement of the church. Instead, it created a new category for it, designating it as an Ecumenical Faith Declaration.

This year, the EIRC is asking synod to “reaffirm the decision of Synod 2012 to recommend the Belhar Confession to the churches for study and for incorporation of its themes into their discipling and liturgical ministries.” It said the lack of attention by churches and need for further study of the Belhar themes calls for synod’s reaffirmation. It is asking that the Board of Trustees be instructed to ensure that assistance to congregations and study materials related to the Belhar be made available.

Synod 2012 also asked the committee to consult with other ecumenical partners to define the new category of Ecumenical Faith Declarations. It did so and now wants synod to “be informed about the problematic nature of the category designated as Ecumenical Faith declaration.” It said that many of the CRC’s ecumenical partners were consulted and the designation has not found favor among them. The committee did not offer a solution for moving forward. (See also CRC Leads Ecumenical Discussion on Role of Confessions.)

New Ecumenical Affiliation Recommended

In the past two decades, many ecumenical partner churches severed their relationships with the CRC, mostly over the issue of women’s ordination. Last year, Synod 2014 suggested that the EIRC explore ways for the CRC to reconnect with those churches.

The EIRC is reporting that some of those conversations are starting to take place but that reestablishing relationships will take time. In the meantime, it said, the CRC could be in more direct connection with some of those churches by affiliating with World Reformed Fellowship, which has extended an invitation to the CRC to join. The EIRC characterized churches in the WRF as “the more conservative Reformed and Presbyterian denominations from around the world.” It pointed out that the CRC’s ecumenical charter makes clear that the CRC does not need to endorse every position taken by an ecumenical partner.

Protestant Church in the Netherlands

The EIRC also responded to two overtures (requests) to Synod 2015 that it reverse the 2014 decision to return to full ecclesiastical fellowship with the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. It said that if the overtures are considered by synod, the committee is “prepared to engage synod in a great in-depth discussion to explain why the action requested . . . would make our work extremely difficult and would conflict with the clear understanding of the CRC’s ecumenical charter—namely, that unity in the global Reformed community does not require uniformity in the decisions made by various churches.”

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